Sun, 13 Dec 2020 - 06:26 GMT
Sun, 13 Dec 2020 - 06:26 GMT
“As you set out for Ithaca
hope that your journey is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.”
It’s true the journey sometimes is more important than the destination, but this is not the case with Siwa Oasis.
Cities have souls, and Siwa’s soul is kind, mystic and motherly.
Once you set foot in Siwa, you can feel the city encompassing you with its warm sun, inviting you in with its serenity, calming your raging oceans of chaos within by its peaceful silence that gives you a moment to breathe without having to fight any thoughts. You can’t help but feel you matter to this city. It wants you to feel you are home.
“Come weary traveler. Put down your shields. You’ve arrived. You are safe, child. Forget your woes, worries. Breathe. Forgive your mistakes, misdoings you are only a feeble flawed being who are destined to err. All is forgiven. Now yield, surrender yourself to me and I shall tend to you”, it whispered to me.
The minute I entered the city, I felt like I’ve ventured into a realm of a lost city similar to none. Locals speak a language foreign to my ears amongst themselves. It’s called Amazigh, also known as Berber, a language still spoken in different parts in North Africa.
Walking in the down town and the Souq – markets- is like roaming in an open-air museum of an ancient civilization, exploring firsthand what is could have been like to live in an area that dates back to thousands of years ago.
They dress differently, their clothes are slightly similar to the Bedouins’, and they have the most inviting smile I’ve ever seen. As for women, once the girl gets married, she rarely gets out. She is considered to be the queen of the household and not supposed to be exposed to others. Only men and children- mostly with a golden tan- are visible in the streets of Siwa.
“Hope that your journey is a long one.
May there be many summer mornings when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to learn from those who know.”
The thing about Siwa is that it’s hard not to find your preference there. It’s in the desert, yet it has over a million green palm trees, it has lakes, healing springs, hills, mountains, salt lakes and ancient relics.
Here are some of the Oasis must-visit attractions:
Temple of the Oracle
Built in the 6th century BC, the temple has given the oasis its ancient name of Oasis of Amun Ra. It’s believed that Alexandre the Great came all the way to appease to Egyptians through the Oracle, as he was declared the son of god and hence the ruler of the country.
Mountain of the Dead
Imagine climbing up a hill which contains many holes that lead to tombs of families that date back to the the 26th dynasty during the Greek and the Roman periods.
The most famous of them is the colorful tomb of Si-Amun, which features Egyptian goddess Nat arching over the earth, she is the goddess of the sky, stars, cosmos, mothers, astronomy, and the universe.
Sunset from Fatnas Island (Fantasy island)
Siwa is called the sunset oasis because it’s the last place in Egypt where the sun sets. Fatnas is one tranquil place where you could watch the sun setting over the lake.
Positive powers of salt lakes
Siwa is also known for the salt lakes formed in salt mines. Even if you can not swim, the salt lake will carry you, you can’t help but float. It’s said that they can absorb negative energy and replace it with positive one, and it has the power to relax the body.
The Great Sand Sea and the healing desert springs
As an Egyptian, I pride myself to be the daughter of the desert, but to be honest, being in presence of the third-largest sand accumulation in the world is a whole different story. Driving over dunes and dunes of sand by 4x4 cars to reach the cold lake and hot spring Beir Wahed in the middle of the desert is such a unique, wondrous experience.
One pleasure Siwa offers its visitors is the calm nights, where you can firstly enjoy walking around old down town where you can find restaurants that overlook the magnificent Shali Fortress. It’s a fortress that dates back to the 13th century and it’s built like most of the relics in Siwa from kershef - salt from the lake mixed with rock and plastered in local clay.
Secondly, you can enjoy star and moon gazing from the ecolodges situated by the lakes drinking Siwan tea by the fire.
“Ithaca gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you wouldn’t have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.
And if you find her poor, Ithaca won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you’ll have understood by then what these Ithacas mean.”
C. P. Cavafy
Note: The island of Ithaca in the poem of Cavafy, a Greek born in Alexandria, is used as a metaphor associated with one's final destination. Just as the journey to Ithaca is a metaphor for the human journey through life, Ithaca is seen as a general metaphor for all final destinations.
Photos by Rabab Fathy
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